BENTON TOWNSHIP — Teens from around the state will converge on the Mendel Center Nov. 1 for the My Brother’s Keeper/Girl’s Equity Network Summit.

This is the first time Benton Harbor MBK/GEN is hosting the statewide summit, said MaryAlice Adams, who has been involved in local MBK efforts since former President Barack Obama launched the organization in February 2014.

“People of color for far too long have needed something to call our own,” said Adams, who is also a Benton Harbor city commissioner. “Our youth need to know that somebody has their best interests at heart ensuring that they go to school, stay in school and are job ready when they graduate from school.” 

The summit is open to the public, said Gwen Swanigan of Benton Harbor, who is helping host the event through the S.H.A.R.P. Foundation (Society Harmonizing Against Racial Profiling), a community-based organization designed to fight injustice and to help bring more unity to the community.

Swanigan said it will be a political power summit where youth can learn how to transform policies to improve the lives for youth of color. But it’s not just for people of color, she said.

“All youth can learn how to turn their ideas and goals into reality, from planning for life at the high school to learning how to advocate for themselves to connecting with other youth in a fun and supportive setting,” she said. “... Anyone can come because they can learn more about people of color and talk about the issues that they face. How to bridge that gap and come together.”

The schedule and links to register and to donate to the event can be found at

Anyone wanting to volunteer should email Swanigan at

Entertainment will include four Benton Harbor High School teens performing “Get Up,” which was released as a music video this past spring by Mission Music.

The morning’s keynote speaker will be Bankole Thompson, an opinion columnist at The Detroit News, where he writes a twice-a-week column on politics and culture.

The afternoon’s keynote speaker will be Benton Harbor native Earle J. Fisher, who graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1996. He has multiple college degrees and is an ordained minister in Memphis, Tenn.

In addition, Swanigan said there will be multiple panel discussions and a hands-on People’s Assembly organizing process, where youth set priorities and learn to mobilize peers, parents, elected officials and other local leaders to make a difference in their communities.

The summit runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Contact:, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege